Newport - South Wales


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The Jewish community of Newport has always been a small community and were probably attracted by the economic opportunities afforded by economic boom experienced by the port in the late 19th and early 20th century period and the opening of the Alexandra Docks in 1875, the largest masonry dock in the world. Into the early 20th century Newport also had success with engineering works and foundries and had shops which served Monmouthshire.

The first Jew in Newport was present by 1810 and a small but gradually increasingly number of Jews arrived and settled until there were sufficient numbers to found the first Synagogue in 1859, but which referred to itself as the 'New Synagogue'. It also acquired land for the purposes of a Jewish burial ground, a gift from Lord Tredegar in 1859, with the first burial being in 1861. There was an early rift in the community, which was healed in 1865 by Rev. Louis Harfeld, when a new united congregation was formed in January 1865, and the synagogue opened in Llanarth Street in a temporary leased room. In 1867, the Jewish Chronicle referred to the community as 'a small congregation'. This cemetery was supplemented with a new burial ground in 1946, with a small brick Ohel being added by c. 1951.

The community expanded sufficiently to enable the opening of the first purpose-built synagogue, on a spot between Lewis Street and Francis Street, Pillgwenlly, in 1871, but the community were poor and struggled to finance the completion of the new synagogue, and in consequence of debt were unable to pay for a religion school for the children of the community. This new synagogue was clearly small fabric, as an account of the opening declared, 'The synagogue proper forms the right wing, 37 feet long and 22 feet wide. Accommodation for about 100 on ground floor and 10 [sic] in the Ladies' Gallery.'

The community were eventually able to fund the education of their children, for a short while, until it had to close the school for want of funds, in 1873. An anonymous correspondent to the JC cast aspersions on the motives of the congregation for doing so and claimed they actually had sufficient money. The minute book of the congregationrecords a furious and indignant response, as the Committee wanted to demand of the JC who the anonymous person was, so that they could expel them from the congregation!

The community established a Jewish Literary and Social Institute, by 1902, which operated for many years and there was an active Newport Zionist Association.

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